Push for tourism to help Qld get back on track

BACKPACKERS are back as tourism operators revive the $200 million-a-year reef-trip trade in the cyclone-ravaged Whitsundays.

Military helicopters thudded overhead yesterday as part of a taskforce of a ship, trucks, troops and landing craft delivering supplies to hard-hit Airlie Beach.

A military helicopter arrives at Airlie Beach after Cyclone Debbie. Picture: Liam Kidston
A military helicopter arrives at Airlie Beach after Cyclone Debbie. Picture: Liam Kidston

Tens of thousands of residents face a second week without power, water or sewerage with 40,000 homes blacked out and 300 power lines down.

Ergon expects to restore power supplies to 80 per cent of its customers by Friday and the rest by Good Friday.

Fuel supplies are rationed, bottled water, ice and milk are at a premium. Other than Woolworths and IGA, most shops, cafes, restaurants and businesses are still closed at ground zero of Cyclone Debbie.

But overseas visitors have already started to return to the tourist playground as people resort to bathing in swimming pools after a harrowing week of cyclonic winds, floods, no running water, TV, ATMs, or refrigeration.

The Esplanade Lagoon has been cordoned off to keep out bathers as authorities warn of a potential disease outbreak from polluted floodwaters.

Health experts say there is an increased risk of infection and diseases such as leptospirosis, melioidosis, dengue fever and diarrhoeal bugs.

The Courier-Mail has captured graphic images of the cyclone-trashed Daydream Island, which will be closed indefinitely, the defunct South Molle island resort, and Hamilton Island slammed by 260km/h winds.

Civic leaders are desperate to resurrect the region's tourist-dependent economy. Proserpine airport reopened to flights yesterday with Hamilton Island airport expected to receive two flights a day from next Saturday.

Johanna Tramberg, 20, Amanda Siklumb, 19, My Ponten, 20, from Sweden, have arrived in Airlie Beach after Cyclone Debbie.
Johanna Tramberg, 20, Amanda Siklumb, 19, My Ponten, 20, from Sweden, have arrived in Airlie Beach after Cyclone Debbie. Liam Kidston

Swedish backpackers My Ponten, 20, and her friends Johanna Tramberg, 20, and Amanda Siklumb, 19, drove through floodwaters from Mackay to Airlie to head out on a reef trip.

"We knew we were driving into a disaster zone," Ms Ponten said.

"But we didn't expect it to be this bad."

Airlie Beach Lagoon has been tapped off due to contamination.
Airlie Beach Lagoon has been tapped off due to contamination. Liam Kidston

YOUR CHANCE TO HELP OUR TOURISM INDUSTRY

AUSSIES are being urged to help Queensland's cyclone-ravaged tourism industry bounce back by sharing their favourite Queensland holiday snaps on social media.

The #thisisqueensland campaign has been launched ahead of a bigger marketing blitz to be rolled out once tourism hotspots such as the ­Whitsundays, which were badly battered by Cyclone Debbie last week, are back in full swing.

In the meantime, Tourism Minister Kate Jones said she wanted to keep the state front-of-mind for travellers and ­to remind them how good a Queensland holiday could be.

Ms Jones said many tourism businesses were still operating and need support.

"There's no question Cyclone Debbie left her mark in Queensland, but we know our tourism industry is incredibly resilient when it comes to responding to events like this," she said.

Meanwhile, she is encouraging people to share their Queensland holiday memories on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #thisisqueensland hashtag.

News Corp Australia

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